New Orleans I’m starting November by jumping on a plane and heading overseas for seventeen days: going big and hoping to make it home. Traveling has not been for the faint of heart for quite a while, but now in the semi-maybe-post-pandemic openings for travel around the world, it’s a rat’s nest of complexity and horror. I’m not an NBA player or a high-paid health care worker, so of course, I’ve been fully vaccinated since last January, but, traveling overseas, that’s kind of “so what?”
Adding to the degree of difficulty, this is actually my second attempt to leave the country for the first time since I returned from a trip in February 2020. My first attempt to meet with ACORN Canada organizers ended in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when I didn’t realize that a freshly minted rule meant that I needed a PCR test within 72-hours. You’re nodding and there’s a tut-tut starting to escape from your mouth, but navigating which country, what airline, and the when and how of antigen versus PCR tests is part of the obstacle course now.
Let me explain. In an excess of caution, I got a PCR test from the Louisiana National Guard a couple of days ago, despite being multiply assured that I would not need it to arrive in the England tomorrow. I no longer even believe what I read or hear. I’m also carrying two antigen home-based tests, so I can pull one out at the least provocation if threatened at a border that accepts such tests. Having been stopped by American Airlines in Chicago, I’m on United Airlines now to the UK. They want me to load up my documents to make it easier to get on the plane. Uploading the vaccination documents was a piece of cake on their app, but scanning my passport into their app was a journey on the hamster wheel going nowhere. After fifty or so attempts by me and my loved ones, we gave up. I will wait in line and complain before I’m off to Heathrow.
Does that get me – or anyone – into the United Kingdom. Oh, no, of course not. Within 48 hours of travel, you have to fill out an on-line UK travel document which is absolutely an exercise in a new kind of fresh hell. Figuring out how to type in my US phone number was a fools’ game of their chauvinism, as was the password requirement at 14 characters. Then past the halfway mark, you have to enter the delivery number of what they call your “second day” test. You can get into the country, but you have to prove that you are going to be tested ASAP. Do they accept my antigen tests? No, sucker. You go on a website after figuring out which region will find you on the second day. You then pay in my case sixty pounds for a test that is free in the USA.
I was on my computer caught in this monstrous web for three hours straight before finally filling out all forms, making reservations, printing instructions, etc, etc, etc.
Not that going next week from Scotland to France will be any easier. You have to fill out an “honor” statement swearing off Covid. An antigen test may do? We’ll see, won’t we.
Going back will be no easier, I fear. Our ACORN International organizers’ meeting is outside of Paris, but we’re all having to have other tests to stay there before leaving and additional tests organized around the rural conference center to meet the 72-hour requirement to get back home. Oh, and don’t you know, a QR code on your vax proof will make it easier to register at the center once you get there.
Our organizers will return hale and hearty with new energy from the experience, but in terms of France, they won’t know anything about the Louvre, but they will have opinions from their experience with the French healthcare system to take home, that’s for sure.